fri 21/06/2024

Album: TONN3RR3 x BIKAY3 - It's a Bomb | reviews, news & interviews

Album: TONN3RR3 x BIKAY3 - It's a Bomb

Album: TONN3RR3 x BIKAY3 - It's a Bomb

Hear the forest spirits speak, filtered through electronica

Congo goes digital

Bony Biyake, whose vocals grace this delicious soup of ancient and modern sounds, from Europe and the Congo, once sang in a soukous band, and then made his name in collaborations with the French musical magician, the late Hector Zazou. Their most famous collaboration was a 1983 album, Noir et Blanc, which still sounds ahead of its time today.

Biyake and his collaborators Guillaume Lozillon and Guillaume Gilles, masters of digital keyboards and programming, and percussionist Gaëlle Salomon weave a rich texture of sounds that speak to each other in musical tongues. This is a kind of sorcery, in which the farther reaches of electronic potential are matched with vocals that are both seductive and disturbing: the velvet-smooth touch of Congolese song – so present in soukous and rumba – contrasted with a palette of distortion used to fuel the music's incantatatory power. 

Sung mostly in Lingala, the mix is reminiscent of Hector Zazou's work but also of Ray Lema's richly textured masterpiece Medicine (1985). Bony Bikaye's lyrics explore love, money and God, but it feels as if he's channeling the spirits of the forest, embodying nature's "entangled life", as Merlin Sheldrake wrote when exploring the interconnection of fungi and trees in his best-seeling book.  

There's a good deal of variety on the album, ranging from a re-imagining of Congolese soukous on "Prisonner", with cascades of incandescent notes played by guitar master Diblo Dibala, and the fun disco fervour of "Bana Disco", to the darker mood of "Keba Na Butu", where Bikaye whispers, with a feeling of menace that evokes Tricky at his most sombre, and goes even deeper. On the title track "It's a Bomb", the bounce of Congolese rumba mirrors the irresistible rhythm that Bo Diddley made popular. This is music to dance to, but also to enchant, taking the listener on a trip that finely combines cutting-edge digital sounds with the heart of musical sorcery.

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